While Chris Bumstead has carved his spot as the face of the Classic Physique division over the last few years, another competitor to watch out for is Urs Kalecinski. The German-born powerhouse took a fourth-place finish at the 2021 Olympia, a third-place finish at the 2022 Arnold Classic, and came in first at the 2022 Boston Pro.
That Boston Pro win could be a sign of things to come, because based on the back workout Kalecinski uploaded to YouTube, it’s clear that the young bodybuilder has made some big improvements heading into the 2022 Olympia. Check it out below:
Urs Kalecinski’s 2022 Olympia Prep Back Workout
For Kalecinski’s prep, he’s working with coach Stefan Kienzl to bolster his back, which they both cite as a weak point last year. The goal, Kalecinski says, is to build his frame in a “classical style like Dorian Yates.” To do this, the duo tackles a number of machines focused on the upper back and lats. Here are the moves followed by a breakdown of each one:
- Straight-Arm Pulldown
- High Row Machine
- Iso Lateral Lat Pulldown Machine
- Cable Row
- Wide-Grip Pull-Up
- Iso Lateral Row
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First up is the straight-arm pulldown (which they call the cable pull-over). Kienzl says this movement makes for a good opener or finisher to a back workout.
“The advantage of pull-overs is that you can simply exclude the biceps — which is included in all pull movements — very easily and that way you can isolate your back properly,” Kienzl says, translated from German using YouTube’s closed captions function.
Do it: Stand at a cable machine with a bar attachment set up above your head. With a slightly bent-over stance, grab a straight handle with an overhand grip and your arms straight out. Take a few steps back, slightly bend your elbows, and then pull the bar to your stomach. The bar path should resemble the letter “j”. Return to the starting position in a controlled fashion.
High Row Machine (Overhand)
Kalecinski grabs the handles midway between the curve and the tip. He brings the handles to his chest with each pull and gets full extension back to the starting point at the end of each rep. At the top of each pull, he also holds the weight for a beat before moving it back.
Do it: Sit in the machine, with your chest set firmly against the pad, and set the leg pads so they’re firm but not too tight on your thighs. Grab the handles with an overhand grip. Row the handles to your torso, leading the movement with your elbows. You want your elbows to pass your torso during each repetition.
Iso Lateral Front Lat Pulldown Machine (Underhand)
After hitting the upper back with the high row, Kalecinski again targets the lats with the lat pulldown machine — and this specific machine looks nearly identical to the last one Kalecinski used. Kienzl explains that Kalecinski has “better mind-muscle connection” when performing the move with one arm at a time. But, he says that decision is strictly a preference.
While the machine guides Kalecinski through the technique, be sure to note that he gets full extension throughout the lift and keeps his chest pressed against the pad to avoid rocking his back during the move. This is important to master if you want to really isolate your lats.
Do it: Set up as you did for the high row except grab the handle with and underhand (palm-up) grip. Like during the last movement, row until your elbow passes your torso.
Cable rows are about as classic as it gets, and Kalecinski performs them with strict form throughout his set. He begins the lift leaning forward, and concentrates on pulling the weight back with his lats until the handles are at his chest.
He again strives for full extension and doesn’t jerk his entire upper body back to move the weight. It’s all about slow, methodical reps concentrating on the lats.
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“A common mistake I do is that I raise my shoulders for no reason, and if you raise your shoulders while training back, you tend to only hit your upper back,” Kalecinski says, translated from German. “But if you keep your shoulders low and do a rowing exercise, you’ll hit the whole lat.”
Do it: Select the weight you’d like to row. Sit on a cable row bench and place your feet on the machine’s platform. (Most cable row stations have a dedicated space for your feet.) Lean forward and grab the handle with both hands. Press through your feet and lean back to lift the weight off of the weight stack. Extend your arms and keep your torso straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and row both of your elbows until they move past your torso and the handle is nearly touching your stomach.
Next up is wide-grip pull-ups, and like his other exercises, Kalecinski does these at a deliberate pace. For this move, set a pronated grip on a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Though it’s not perfectly clear, Kalecinski appears to be using an assisted pull-up machine, which has the user select an amount of weight to act as a counter during the movement. Essentially, an assisted pull-up machine subtracts weight from your body weight. Some may see this as cheating, but for a person who is 200-plus-pounds, like Kalecinski, it’s almost a necessity in order to perform the reps needed to forge new muscle.
Do it: Grab onto a pull-up bar with both hands, using an overhand grip. Set your grip so it’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. Lift your feet off of the ground and let your body hang so that your arms fully extend. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pul yourself up until your chin is at or above the bar.
Iso Lateral Row
The final exercise is the iso lateral row machine, which Kalecinski performs with a neutral grip. The 24-year-old bodybuilder says to keep your shoulders low while doing this exercise to concentrate on the whole lat muscle. While the technique is simple, it’s important to keep your chest pressed against the pad throughout and to perform each rep slowly.
Do it: Sit on the machine so that your chest is pressed against the pad. Cement your feet into the floor for extra stability. Extend your arms and grab both handles with a neutral (palms-facing) grip. Row the handles toward you until your elbows pass your torso.
Urs Kalecinski Physique Update
At the end of the video, Kalecinski gives a physique update as he preps for the 2022 Olympia. While running through a number of poses, it’s clear that he’s well on his way toward putting on the mass he needs to compete against the Chris Bumsteads of the world.
“I’m very impressed by the stage he is in right now, and it’s once again a big improvement compared to the Arnolds,” Kienzl says. “[This] has been the first real off-season [since] he started into the prep in 2021 — and if you compare it from back then to today, then it’s definitely incredible what he has done.”
Kienzl says that Kalecinski still needs to work on his back thickness, especially in the back double-biceps pose. Still, this video was taken 16 weeks out from the Olympia, and there’s plenty of time for him to continue with his already-impressive progress.
Featured Image: Urs Kalecinski on YouTube